Five Tips for Earning 5-Star Reviews and Testimonials for Your Smoky Mountains Rental Cabin

Your reputation is a very valuable currency in the shared economy — or should we say the "trust economy?" In our cabin rental game, guests place their trust in hosts they've never met, which means that a host's reputation is paramount.

Cabin managers in Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, and Sevier County, TN, know very well that good reviews are the best reputation builders. They play as much of a role in a guest's decision-making process as price and photos, directly leading to more conversions.

Besides delivering an exceptional guest experience (that's a given with Stony Brook), there's a proactive approach you can use to get more and more good reviews — and avoid negative ones.

This blog will share five tips for getting 5-star reviews for your Smoky Mountains rental cabin. Let's get those five golden stars rolling in!


  1. Make sure your photos are authentic.

  2. Be specific in your description.

  3. Give local recommendations.

  4. Master the art of communication.

  5. Ask for reviews directly.

1. Make sure your photos are authentic
authentic photos are key to guest reviews in cabin rentals like this outdoor fireplace shot

The Dancing Bear Lodge's fire pit area looks lovely in this picture, but if guests were to arrive and find new buildings blocking the view, the garden overgrown with weeds, and no tables or a grill, they would certainly be filled with disappointment.

We've already seen how good decor and high-quality photos enhance your cabin's appeal and do wonders for your occupancy and revenue. However, if guests don't arrive at the property to find what they saw online, they will feel deceived.

Sprucing up your decor and experimenting with different angles during photo shoots are common practices in this industry, but remember: photos can be very deceptive. With that in mind, always avoid misleading your guests.

Before uploading your pictures, ask yourself whether your photos accurately represent your cabin in its present state, so steer clear of using outdated photos. While spaces, furnishings, and appliances don't need to be brand new, they should be well-maintained and functional.

Showcasing your cabin's positive features is important, but not in a way that conceals other negative aspects through selective framing. Misleading photos are a very common cause of complaints from frustrated guests. The key is aligning expectations with reality as closely as possible.

2. Be transparent and specific in your description

The description of the Big Polar Retreat does an excellent job of highlighting its positives in a specific manner, mentioning vaulted ceilings, leather furniture, and granite countertops, among other features. At the same time, they are transparent about parking restrictions. If guests have any questions, everything is already clarified beforehand.

Genuine photos matter and the same applies to your description.

It's easy to become too enthusiastic when describing your own asset, especially when trying to sell it. However, take a moment to step back, detach slightly, and try to see your cabin through the lens of a new guest.

Text is almost as important as images. The goal is to craft a description that's objective, detailed, truthful, and that can answer questions before they're asked.

Once more, avoid creating unrealistic expectations. It's okay to highlight your unique selling points, but also be upfront when discussing aspects that may not be entirely positive. When guests are aware of potential drawbacks before making a reservation, they can plan accordingly for any inconveniences.

Also, it's a good thing to let your guests know what kind of basic supplies they will get, like small amenities in the bathroom and kitchen, in your description. It doesn't hurt to ask your staff to double-check if everything is available before guests arrive. These items are the minimum your guests should find when they arrive.

It's completely acceptable if your guests are required to handle specific tasks on their own, such as replenishing propane or supplying charcoal for the grill. However, let them know this well in advance, allowing them to prepare and prevent any unwelcome surprises.

Bonus tip: go above and beyond expectations

When guests see your photos and read your description, they create expectations. And trust us; everyone who books a cabin for the first time has expectations.

What about not just meeting expectations, but actually surpassing them? The best way to do so is by focusing on being extra attentive and anticipating their needs.

You can charm your guests with a little extra, too, like a nice flower vase or extra comfy towels. We don't recommend offering things like chocolate boxes and wine bottles. These add up to high costs in the long run and, based on our experience, not many guests bring them up on reviews.

Still, there are many other ways hosts can provide extra thoughtful touches to make guests feel welcome at lower costs. Just be creative and smart.

3. Give local recommendations
local recommendations are great for Smoky Mountain guest satisfaction

Crafted guidebooks are a good way to go that extra mile to please your guests. Think about your area: are there any local haunts that serve remarkable food? What can guests do on a rainy day? What outdoor activities are a must?

Most travelers looking for cabin rentals are keen on avoiding tourist traps and seeking local treasures. For that reason, providing your guests with a personalized guidebook on what to do in your area shows your hosting skills and will enhance your reviews.

It's best to choose a digital version over print, so you can send it to guests in advance. Guidebooks can be brief and simple enough. The most important is that it should reflect your personal take on the area.

Worried about the amount of work involved? There are many tools to make the job easier. Here are some particularly helpful ones:

If you take care of your guests' needs ahead of time and give them personal recommendations, they'll most likely put in a good word for you after they check out.

Including a coupon booklet in your guidebook can be a fantastic idea, as it adds an additional layer of value and a personalized touch. After all, who doesn't like to save a bit of money?

4. Master the art of communication

Property managers in Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and Sevierville, know how much guests value good and timely communication. That's another thing they often complain about when standards are not met.

A host who is helpful throughout a guest's booking process and their stay is more likely to receive positive reviews. To make things more automated and easier, it can follow a sequence:

  • Before they book: be ready to answer their questions quickly and be polite and helpful.

  • Once they book: send a thank-you note, booking confirmation, and a guidebook including the answers to the most common questions about your place.

  • Two days before their arrival: send them a guide for your area and a coupon booklet so they can explore the neighborhood.

  • Before check-in: send them the door code and be available if they need anything. Check-ins can be stressful.

  • The day after check-in: follow up with them to see how things are going and offer any help they might need.

  • Before they check out: send them the check-out instructions.

  • The night after check-out: send them a final thank-you note and kindly ask them to leave a review.

It might seem like a lot, but guests appreciate active and caring hosts. They also like someone who is always there to help. So, remind your guests they can get in touch with you if they need anything.

Bonus tip: time matters

Good timing in replying to messages is essential in this business, and it really leads to positive reviews. A good tip is to strive for a fast response, under five minutes — 24h a day, seven days a week, including weekends and holidays.

You know what? Being an excellent host sometimes means dropping what you’re doing and taking care of your guests.

5. Ask for reviews directly

Just because you've ticked all the boxes above it doesn't guarantee a five-star review. Guests can be forgetful. They have a lot on their minds, and most don't realize how crucial reviews are for hosts.

But why leave it up to chance? You can take matters into your own hands and gently nudge them in the right direction by slipping a review reminder into your thank-you note.

Here's an example:

Thanks for leaving the place in great shape. I'll leave you a great review. If you have a moment, I'd love it if you could leave me a review too. It's the best trust builder and would be appreciated!

The best time to send a reminder is shortly after check-out while your guests still have your place fresh in their minds. Don't forget the power of reciprocity. Leaving your guests a glowing review increases the chances of them returning the favor.

Bonus tip: use the pre-framing technique

Did you know that shaping your guest's thoughts can be just as important as shaping their experience into something worthy of five stars? It's all about the power of "pre-framing," a subtle influence technique businesses use to guide their customer's thought processes.

When communicating with your guests, mention that you want them to have nothing less than a "five-star" experience during their stay at your cabin. Let them know that you're eager to make it right if their experience cannot meet that standard.

Here's an example:

Hi [Guest Name], Welcome! As your host, I'm committed to providing you with a five-star experience during your stay. If, at any point, your experience isn't meeting that standard, please reach out to me, and I'll do everything in my power to make it right. Thank you for choosing my place for your stay, and we can't wait to hear about your fantastic experience!

This message hints that you expect your guests to leave a positive review and it also implies that, if something is wrong, they should let you know personally and not through a review. It works like magic. Try it and watch those five-star reviews roll in!

Secrets to getting 5-Star reviews for your cabin rental in the Smoky Mountains

Stellar reviews and five golden stars come, above all, when you provide an exceptional stay to your guests. These tricks are definitely useful as a strategy to have in mind but remember: hosting is an art form, so use your creativity to win people’s hearts.

Send us your suggestions on future blog topics. As a cabin management company in the Smoky Mountains, we are always eager to share our knowledge with other cabin owners. Reach out to us through the contact form below.

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